Explanations and Excuses for Salmonella-Infected Eggs

So, we finally get to hear the salmonella-in-our-eggs story from the man behind the mess.

See this breaking story, by Gardiner Harris, writing for the NYT: Egg Producer Says His Business Grew Too Quickly

An Iowa egg producer at the center of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella apologized to a Congressional panel on Wednesday and admitted that his family operation “got big quite a while before we stopped acting like we were small.”

“What I mean by that is we were big before we started adopting sophisticated procedures to be sure we met all of the government requirements,” the egg producer, Austin J. DeCoster, said in testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee….

Two quick points.

First, DeCoster’s testimony lines up pretty well with my own analysis from a few weeks back. (See: When is a Factory Farm Not a Factory Farm?) Basically, Wright County Egg was a big operation behaving like a small one. It needed to be run professionally; but instead it was run as if producing millions of eggs a year were an endeavour for amateurs. But while I offered the above hypothesis as an explanation, DeCoster seems to be offering it as an excuse, and the two are very different.

Second, note that DeCoster’s focus — even as he apologizes and asks for forgiveness — is on whether his company met government requirements. There’s no focus on, say, excellence or even just on doing things right. Anyone in business ought to know that government regulations can only ever establish minimal performance standards — the kinds of standards that, if followed, would hopefully prevent you from killing your customers.

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Explanations and Excuses for Salmonella-Infected Eggs

  1. Pingback: A Better Factory Farm? | The Food Ethics Blog

  2. Pingback: Cloning and “Proportionate” Regulatory Response to Risk | The Food Ethics Blog

Comments are closed.